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A Titanic that Passengers Were Forced to Board

By: Emma Wang

Many people on the blue fishing trawler, shaky and already full to the brim when it arrived, knew that they possibly wouldn’t get another chance to see their families again. Most of the 750 who made this guess were right. However, behind each of those victims is a story.

One example of this was Thaer Khalid al-Rahal’s story. Rahal’s four-year-old son, Khalid, was diagnosed with leukemia last year. The family had been living in a refugee camp for 10 years already. The doctors at the camp said that young Khalid’s treatment costs would be covered with United Nations funds–however, after a while, funds started running low and Khalid wasn’t getting better. Naturally, when the doctors told Thaer that Khalid needed a bone marrow transplant, he knew that he had to earn money in Europe in order to pay for the treatment.

Some realized that their current jobs wouldn’t pay enough to take care of their families, and others had been sent away from Europe because documents had been rejected. Regardless, out of the 750+ people that entered the trawler that night, only 104 people reached the Greece mainland. From the hundreds more that are still nowhere to be found, 82 bodies have been recovered.

Around the same time, somewhere 900 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, a pilot and four passengers, who were all rich, were diving toward the Titanic’s shipwreck on the submersible Titan. This had been for vacation purposes, whereas the hundreds of refugees aboard the fishing trawler that night weren’t. When the vehicle carrying them disappeared, it started an all-hands-on-deck search for the five passengers aboard the Titan. However, the trawler carrying 750 people–150 times more immigrants–did not.

Around 350 people found in the trawler were from Pakistan. From descriptions from survivors, most of the Pakistanis on board were below decks when the boat sank. The sad truth is that plenty of the 750 passengers were children.

Some reassured their families that they were fine; others told their families that they didn’t trust their smugglers. Survivors described terrible treatment from the smugglers–such as being herded onto the boat like cattle.

Many families don’t know what to do anymore; with no news from or about their lost loved ones, they don’t know how they will host a funeral without a body.

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